Going keto to get lean and enhance workout performance is one of the hottest trends in fitness.
Despite its current popularity, high fat/very low carbohydrate diets have been around for centuries and there are decades of science supporting their efficacy and safety. I’m going to show you how to put a ketogenic diet to work for you so that you can take the brakes off your body’s fat burning potential.
Ketogenic diets get their name from a group of unique compounds called ketone bodies, commonly just called ketones. Ketones are a metabolic by-product that your body creates when it is burning fat (either stored body fat or dietary fat) at very high rate. This generally only happens during long intense exercise, or when carbohydrates are severely restricted, because the presence of the hormone insulin (which is released by your body when you eat carbs) squashes fat burning and ketone production.
When you remove carbs from your diet and increase the amount of fat you are eating, your body produces so many ketones that their level in your blood increases - you are then considered to be in a ketogenic or fat-adapted state. Your body has adapted to using fat (and ketones) as primary fuel sources and not carbs/sugar.
Many people believe that this metabolic switching is the key to unlocking high performance and fat burning. However, not everyone is convinced of this. There are many diet plans that work, and ketogenic diets work very well. You just need to see if they work well for you.
One of the biggest myths about ketogenic diets is that they are bad diets if you need to perform at a high level. This is flat out untrue. I once added 80lbs to my deadlift over a 4.5 month timespan while on a ketogenic diet - no issues with performance. As your body adapts to using fat as a primary fuel source, your performance in the gym might be hindered slightly. But this is only temporary (and most of the effects can generally be overcome with a little caffeine) while your body builds the cellular machinery it needs to be a dedicated fat burning machine.
Ketogenic Diet Basics
As with any diet plan, there are guidelines around how much and what types of carbohydrate, fat, and protein you can eat. Here is a breakdown of each with all the info you need to get started.
Carbs are your enemy. When on a ketogenic diet, you need to severely limit the amount of carbohydrates that you are eating to ~30g per day or less to keep insulin levels really low - allowing your body to readily access, liberate, and burn fat as its primary fuel source. If you are going to count anything on a ketogenic diet - count carbs.
Your new go to carb sources will be fibrous vegetables (and some fruit) like these:
- Swiss chard
- Raspberries (very high in fiber)
When done right, 60-70% of the calories in your diet will come from fat (yes, that’s a lot of fat!). Your body will quickly learn to thrive on it. Your body was actually built to thrive on fat, and removing carbs from your diet frees your body from these metabolic constraints and allows you to tap into near limitless amounts of energy (via stored body fat and the fat you eat). Eat a variety of fats and try not to overdo one type. Be careful when eating nuts as they contain carbs. Walnut and Macadamia nuts are the preferred nuts, as they are low carb and high fat.
Here are some other fats to include:
- - Olive oil
- - Canola oil
- - Coconut oil
- - Butter
- - Full fat Sour cream
- - Cheese
- - Heavy cream
- - Coconut cream
- - Ghee
- - Sesame oil
- - Avocado (does contain carbs)
How much protein you eat on a ketogenic diet is more nuanced than carbs and fat. Carbs and fat are easy. Carbs - eat very little. Fat - eat a lot. Protein - you need to find your sweet spot. You need enough protein to support muscle growth and recovery from your training, but if you overeat protein, your body will turn it into glucose (i.e. sugar) and it will negatively impact your body’s ability to produce ketones and use fat as a primary fuel source. At the lowest level, you want to aim for 30g of protein 4 times a day. This will be enough to maximize muscle protein synthesis also known as muscle building/re-building. You don’t want to exceed - 0.8 gram of protein per pound of body weight.
All protein is fair game, especially protein with higher fat levels that you might normally avoid like sausage or beef short ribs:
- Sardines (my ketogenic diet favorite!)
Here’s how you can put all of this together in a ketogenic diet plan.
- Calories: 1919 kcal
- Fat: 152g
- Carbs: 30g
- Fiber: 12g
- Protein: 121g
Sample Diet Plan Set-Up
- 1 Scoop USPlabs MaxREPS
- 1 scoop Modern Protein + 2 Tbsp heavy cream
- 3 eggs scrambled with 2 tsp coconut oil
- 7oz chicken thighs, skin on
- 2 cups mushrooms, 2 cups of spinach sauteed with 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1oz macadamia nuts
- ½ Avocado
- 6oz flank steak topped with 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 medium zucchini (diced or turned into noodles) sauteed in 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil.
Disclaimer The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of USPlabs or any employee thereof. Examples used within this article are only examples. USPlabs is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the authors of this article. Authors may have been remunerated by USPlabs.
The information provided in this article, as well as this web-site blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice for any condition. Always consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. By reading this disclaimer, you hereby agree and understand that the information provided in this column is not medical advice and relying upon it shall be done at your sole risk.
About Dr. Mike Roussell
Dr. Mike is known for transforming complex nutritional concepts into practical nutritional habits that his clients can use to ensure permanent weight loss and long lasting health. Dr. Mike holds a degree in biochemistry from Hobart College and a doctorate in nutrition from Pennsylvania State University.
Dr. Mike’s academic background coupled with his broad range of experience from consulting with pharmaceutical and food companies, medical schools, top rated fitness facilities, professional athletes, and individual clients, gives him the unique ability to translate scientific findings into relevant, understandable, and actionable strategies that get results. As a scientist, his research has been published in the premiere clinical nutrition journal in the world, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Dr. Mike is a sought after continuing educator, speaking across the country to physicians, dietitians, nurses, and other health professionals on the most recent advances in the nutritional treatments for cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Mike’s unique approach to scientifically derived yet practical nutrition has made him a well-known expert contributor to both national print publications and leading online fitness outlets. In addition to being an adjunct assistant professor at Pennsylvania State University, Dr. Mike serves on the Advisory Board for both Men’s Health magazine and LIVESTRONG.com. He also writes the monthly “Ask The Nutrition Know-It-All” column for Men’s Health Magazine. In addition to authoring three books, Your Naked Nutrition Guide (2007), The 6 Pillars of Nutrition (2011), and Dr. Mike’s Ultimate Book of Smoothies (2015) he has served as the nutritionist for Men’s Health Book of Power Training (Rodale, 2007), Strength Training Cardio (Rodale, 2010), the Women’s Health Big Book of Abs (Rodale, 2012), the Men’s Health Big Book of Abs (Rodale, 2012), and Your Body Is Your Barbell (Rodale, 2014).